Eight new Ontario Sires Stakes divisional champions were crowned on Saturday night as this season’s provincial stars faced off in the $2 million Super Finals at Mohawk Racetrack.
The 40th anniversary season of the Ontario Sires Stakes concluded with three-year-old trotting filly Riveting Rosie defending her divisional title and giving driver Paul MacDonell his second Super Final victory of the night and record 16th since the championship races were introduced in 2000. He was also victorious with two-year-old pacing filly Code One Hanover. Chris Christoforou also picked up a pair of trophies sweeping the two-year-old colt divisions with pacer Reverend Hanover and trotter Dont Rush. Full recaps of all eight championships are below.
Two-year-old trotting filly division point leader Danielle Hall concluded her first Ontario Sires Stakes season on top as she wore down Peaceful Way Stakes champion and race favourite Stubborn Belle en route to victory in the first Super Final of the night.
Danielle Hall protected her pocket position early on and followed insider Stubborn Belle (Paul MacDonell) through fractions of :27.2, :56.1 and 1:25. Driver Jody Jamieson pulled Danielle Hall from the two-hole nearing the third quarter mark, collared Stubborn Belle down the stretch and held off the oncoming Muscle Baby Doll (Doug McNair) by three-quarters of a length for the 1:54.1 triumph. Danielle Hall paid $10.60 to win as the 4-1 second choice in the wagering. Stubborn Belle settled for third.
Danielle Hall shaved one full second off her lifetime mark that she had established in the Champlain Stakes at Mohawk back on Aug. 28. The winning time was just two-fifths of a second off Bee A Magician’s stakes record.
“I really didn’t see the race turning out like that,” commented Jamieson after the victory. “I thought that Mac [MacDonell] would let a couple go and re-move, but his filly got off on a real good foot tonight. I was a little bit behind the eight ball making sure I closed up the two hole when it was there following Stubborn Belle there was no other trip.
“I wasn’t confident in pulling that early, but Dougie [McNair] was coming with a really nice filly [Muscle Baby Doll], trained by Tony O’Sullivan, she’s been sprinting by me or close to me all year. My mare felt so good I just I said ‘well, it’s now or never.’ There was still about three-eighths left, but she showed tonight she’s a pretty nice animal.”
Jamieson’s father Carl trains and co-owns the Deweycheatumnhowe-Debbie Hall filly with Winnipeg Racing of Concord, Ont.
Injured early on while training down in Florida, the smart filly has filled out and prospered since. Danielle Hall is now seven-for-10 in her debut season with earnings climbing to $378,110.
After the race, trainer John Bax commented on Stubborn Belle’s performance. “She was just a little bit fired up tonight and a little too aggressive, just too hard on herself,” he said. “Anytime you go in :54 as a two-year-old, it’s pretty impressive.”
Another division leader, three-year-old trotting colt Harper Blue Chip waged war with front-stepping Maximuscle and persevered to complete his perfect Sires Stakes season with two-time defending Lampman Cup winner Sylvain Filion aboard.
Firing across the track from post 10, Maximuscle (Rick Zeron) made the lead into the first turn over his fellow outside leavers and put up opening panels of :27 and :56.1. Filion then made his move with 3-5 favourite Harper Blue Chip, who got away fourth, down the backstretch and engaged in a duel with the leader as they raced by three-quarters in 1:24.1. That battle continued down the stretch with Harper Blue Chip eventually putting away his rival and drawing clear late in the mile for the 1:54.3 career-best victory. Harper Blue Chip paid $3.50 to win. Longshots Ole Jack Magic (Chris Christoforou) and Verdi (Paul MacDonell) came on for second and third, respectively.
“The trip didn’t work out, I don’t think, the way Sylvain and I anticipated,” said winning trainer Mark Steacy. “We were hoping maybe to clear to the front a lot earlier than that. We didn’t know we’d have to come first-up that hard. This horse, he’s stepped up to the bell every time he’s gone behind the gate this year. The season’s been great.”
Steacy trains the colt by his former 2005 Super Final champion Majestic Son and Winning Jonlin for Ontario owners Landmark 6 Racing Stable of Kingston, David McDonald of Cornwall, David Reid of Glenburnie and George Judson of Athens.
Harper Blue Blue went three-for-three in Gold Series action this season and has six wins overall in 13 starts on the year along with a pair of third place finishes in the Hambletonian and Canadian Trotting Classic. With his Super Final victory, Harper Blue Chip’s sophomore earnings soared over the $600,000 mark.
“He’s not a flashy horse or anything and he’s not probably the quickest horse,” said Steacy. “He just has a big heart, just like his dad. He just wants to win. He likes to make money and he seems to be able to get it done.”
Harper Blue Chip is expected to head to the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs next and the Breeders Crown at Meadowlands Racetrack.
Despite a late start to the season, two-year-old pacing colt Reverend Hanover has been flawless since hitting the track in September and he continued his undefeated streak in the next Super Final.
Make Some Luck (Jody Jamieson) established the early lead and left the leaving Sporting The Look (Mario Baillargeon) hung out past the :27-second opening panel. Down the backstretch, driver Chris Christoforou tipped 1-5 favourite Reverend Hanover out from fourth and swept wide around the parked out divisional point leader before hitting the half in :55. Reverend Hanover continued on to three-quarters in 1:24.3 and extended his two and a half leading margin to four before hitting the wire in 1:52.1. He paid $2.70 to win. Drachan Hanover (Rick Zeron) rallied wide off cover to place and Manny In Sports (James MacDonald) finished third off his pocket trip.
“The whole way training down this colt trained like a real good colt,” explained winning trainer Casie Coleman. “I did have him staked to everything — he was in the Metro, Breeders Crown and Governor’s Cup. He bucked a shin right when we got home from Florida. That’s a Thoroughbred injury, it’s not very common in Standardbreds, but he did it so I pulled him out of the stales. I didn’t think he’d race much this season, but he healed real quick and we got him ready and did a little racing this season.”
Reverend Hanover, who won a pair of Gold Series stakes, is now four-for-four in his career for his Ontario connections including the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Steve Calhoun of Chatham and Anthony Beaton of Waterdown. A $24,000 Harrisburg Sale yearling purchase, Reverend Hanover is from the first crop of Sportswriter (out of Razzle My Tazzle), who was campaigned by his conditioner.
“He’s just like his old man, he’s so much like Sportswriter,” said Coleman. “You watch Sportswriter’s replays, then watch Reverend Hanover, it looks like you’re watching the same horse. [He has a] great attitude, great gait, everything about him. He’s just a sweetheart to work around. He’s identical to his father.”
Coleman noted that Reverend Hanover will now be turned out and will get ready for his sophomore season.
Coleman’s other starters in the field, Sportskeeper (Sylvain Filion) and Bob Ben And John (Jonathan Drury), finished fourth and fifth. Originally she had five starters entered in the Super Final, but two were scratched sick.
Christoforou scored back-to-back wins in the Super Finals as he showed Dont Rush open road down the stretch and the two-year-old trotting colt point leader out-sprinted his rivals to the wire.
With the inner post advantage, Rise Up Rise Up (Mike Saftic) came through for the early lead forcing the leaving outsider Caulfield (Trevor Henry) into the pocket during a :27.3 opening panel. From there, Alacrity (Eddie Green), the leading money earner in the division, advanced first up from mid-pack and took over command from the eventual breaker past the :57.2 half-mile mark with Luck O The Irish (Sylvain Filion) left uncovered and Platoon Seelster (Ryan Holliday) following second over. Alacrity raced by three-quarters in 1:27, with Luck O The Irish getting to him as they turned for home, but Platoon Seelster fanned wide with 7-5 favourite Dont Rush even wider from the backfield and rushing by to prevail by two lengths in a career-best time of 1:57.1. He paid $4.80 to win. Platoon Seelster finished second over Luck O The Irish.
“He’s done really well and he’s won his last three starts,” noted trainer Dustin Jones after the race. “Usually if I have a colt that does well, they usually stay well all year long.”
Jones bred, trains and co-owns the Infinitif-Color Me Pretty colt with Greg Judson of Athens, Ont. Dont Rush now has four wins — all in the OSS program — from 11 starts and earnings just shy of $300,000.
“I bought the mare as a yearling in Kentucky and I’ve raised a few colts out of her, but nothing like this,” said Jones. “This was the result of a free breeding from Jean-Pierre Dubois, so I have to thank him a lot.
“I was just hoping he was going to be a good Grassroots horse and he really surprised me,” added the Waterdown, Ont. resident, who attributes his own successful season as a trainer to good horses, good help and good luck.
The two-year-old pacing filly division came down to a photo finish as Code One Hanover shot up the inside to post a 26-1 upset in the following Super Final.
Code One Hanover and Paul MacDonell were among a trio of early leavers, grabbing the lead briefly from post five before being overtaken past the :27-second opener by outsiders Capela (James MacDonald) — the 8-5 favourite — and Wrangler Magic (Sylvain Filion). Wrangler Magic led the field through middle splits of :56.3 and 1:24.4 with the outer flow developing and division leader Sports Chic (Jody Jamieson) spotted third over before fanning wide for the stretch drive. Wrangler Magic maintained the lead down the lane, but Code One Hanover closed along the pylons to prevail over that filly by a head, hitting the wire in a personal-best clocking of 1:54.1. Akissfromtheheart (Trevor Henry) came on for third more than two lengths behind over Sports Chic and Capela.
“There’s no question about it we were going to need a trip no matter how things unfolded,” said MacDonell after the win. “She was able to get out of the gate well and get away third and draft along and things worked out for her.
Trained and owned by Cambridge, Ont. horseman Jack Darling, the Sportswriter-Current Hanover filly, who was a $75,000 Lexington Selected Sale purchase as a yearling, earned just her second career win in 10 starts and boosted her bankroll to $182,325. Making her final start of the season, she returned $55.70 to her backers at the betting windows.
“She won her [OSS Gold] race at Grand River earlier in the summer fairly handily and she qualified well early, but she did tail off mid-season and we were a little concerned about her,” said MacDonell. “But she came right back around tonight and surprised.”
MacDonell, the winningest Super Final driver in OSS history, went right back out for another victory with defending champion Riveting Rosie in the three-year-old trotting filly division.
The John Bax trainee is just the ninth horse to earn Super Final victories in back-to-back seasons.
The 4-5 favourite sprinted to the lead from post nine and carved out fractions of :27.4, :57.1 and 1:26.2 en route to the 1:55 half-length victory. She paid $4.20 to win. Margie (Sylvain Filion) edged by the pocket-pulling Sweetie Hearts (Randy Waples) for the runner-up honours.
The Muscle Mass-Rose De Vie Stena filly was the division point leader having earned her previous three wins this year in Gold Series action, along with a pair of third-place efforts earlier in the season. She is now four-for-14 in her sophomore campaign with earnings climbing over the $400,000 mark.
“She got good at the right time of the year so we’re pretty happy with her. She had an accident at the farm and scraped up her legs and all the scar tissue and just the little things were bothering her. She’s gotten through it,” said Bax of her slow start this year. “The [OSS Gold] race at Flamboro [on September 21], when she won in the mud there in 1:57, she looked pretty good. I thought everything’s good.”
Riveting Rosie is owned by Parkhill Stud Farm of Peterborough, Ont., Don Allensen of Wyoming, Ont., J And T Stable of Newmarket, Ont. and John Hayes of Sharon, Ont.
She is eligible to the Moni Maker at Hoosier Park and the Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands.
Skippin By continued to lead the three-year-old pacing filly division with a wire-to-wire romp in their Super Final.
Driven by Randy Waples, the 3-5 favourite sprinted the first quarter in :26.1 as she parked out second choice Lady Shadow (Doug McNair). Down the backstretch, Lady Shadow tried to take back into a gaping three-hole behind the pocket-sitter, Brescia Seelster (Mario Baillargeon), but Brookdale Shadow (Chris Christoforou) closed up that spot leaving her in for a tough trip. Meanwhile, back on top, Skippin By proceeded to the half in :54.1 and three-quarters in 1:22.2 and skipped home to a dominant three length victory in 1:51.3. Brescia Seelster finished second and Sectionline Aqua (Mike Saftic) closed from the backfield for third.
“Lady Shadow’s had a huge year, she’s a wonderful filly as well,” said trainer Corey Johnson. “I think it was our race to lose. My one concern was just not to overdo it, just see how things panned out and make sure we made the right decisions. Randy did a wonderful job, I can’t say enough.”
Johnson took over the training of the Shadow Play-Southern Magnolia filly in early July, late August for Ohio owners Wall Bros Stable and Bruce Soulsby. After competing in the Grassroots program at two, Skippin By stepped up to win three Gold Series events this year. She has earned the bulk of her $392,098 career bankroll with six wins in 15 sophomore starts.
“She had quite a few starts under her belt. They told me she was a nice filly, but she was just having some difficulties as of late so we took her,” explained Johnson. “She surprised us all, she’s wonderful, I can’t say enough about her.
“She’s got a wonderful attitude. She’s all about her job, she loves to win. You saw her tonight, she didn’t want to let anything go and when she gets to the lane she still wants to keep going. She just doesn’t stop. There’s no end to her.”
The Glamour Boy division of three-year-old pacing colts closed out the 40th anniversary season of the Ontario Sires Stakes with Three Of Clubs scoring in front-end fashion for two-time defending Johnston Cup winning trainer Gregg McNair.
McNair’s son Doug was aboard Three Of Clubs and he sent the Mach Three-CC Kloe colt to the front from post six and never looked back, leading through panels of :27, :55 and 1:23.1 en route to the two length victory in a career-best 1:51.1. Three Of Clubs paid $13.70 to win as the 5-1 second choice. Play It Again Sam (Jody Jamieson) chased him home from the pocket spot to finish second while division leader and 3-5 favourite Jet Airway (Randy Waples) followed cover wide around the parked post 10 starter, Silverhill Shadow (Chris Christoforou), and kicked home for third.
Three Of Clubs’ only other win this season was in the last Gold Series event, but he also hit the board in three other legs. In 12 starts this year, he’s managed to stash away $255,480 in earnings for his Guelph, Ont. based conditioner and partners Keith Waples of Durham, Ont. and Tony Lawrence of Hanover, Ont.
“He had great gate speed last year, but we’ve had trouble with him all year. He was getting bad gaited near the end of the mile,” said Doug McNair of last year’s Battle of Waterloo champion and close third-place Super Final finisher. “Kudos to the guys who work for dad, Dad, and all the vets — they got this horse ready for the end of the year and they did a great job.
“I thought he had a good shot as long as he was good gaited. He can get off the wings good. It’s just too bad he’s had trouble all year because he should have twice amount the money he’s got on his card so far this year.”
Three Of Clubs is expected to race in the Windy City Pace at Maywood Park next.
Apprentice Hanover, son of 2008 Super Final champion Somebeachsomewhere, was the star of Saturday’s undercard as he won the weekly $34,000 Preferred Pace in 1:50.3 to push his lifetime earnings over $900,000. Driven by Jamieson for trainer Ben Wallace and owner Brad Grant of Milton, Ont., the four-year-old pacer prevailed in a blanket finish with Duc Dorleans (Phil Hudon) second and Piston Broke (Sylvain Filion) third.